Wednesday, May 12, 2010
My parents have been telling me about some friends of theirs, a father and son, who are building paddleboards, which are kind of like a cross between a kayak and a surfboard, as far as I can tell.
I recently had a chance to talk to the son, Eric, about his creations, and Sunday afternoon I get to try one.
"They’re basically big surfboards that you’re able to stand up on," Eric said, "but they displace a little more water and they’re a lot thicker than a regular surf board."
Paddleboards are native to places like Hawaii, and were originally intended for catching big waves, but they've started to migrate to the Midwest.
Northerners are discovering that the boards are "good for cross-training workouts," Eric said, because standing on the board "activates your core muscles or stabilizer muscles because you’re not on a stable platform."
Similar to a pilates workout, Eric said, "it's one of those things you can do for fun that hones in on those muscle groups."
Boards can now be spotted on lakes and rivers far, far from the Big Water, partly because of Eric.
Eric owns his own fiberglass company, mostly making parts for airplanes. He grew up on a lake and started making his own wakeskates - like a skateboard without trucks that's pulled behind a boat like a wakeboard - in the mid-'90s.
When Eric's dad, Dan, was looking at "one of his old man outdoor magazines," as Eric so gently put it, he spotted a paddleboard and asked Eric to build him one. The construction for a paddleboard is very similar to a wakeskate, Eric said, just a few feet longer.
"He’s retired and he got talking to his buddies about how I was going to build him this paddleboard, and it was going to be awesome, and it started generating a lot of interest," said Eric.
"We looked into it, and it wound up being easier to buy everything in bulk and build a bunch of them at one time instead of one or two."
Since then, Eric's built nine boards, and he's got requests for another dozen. Bad economy or not, us Michiganders are still dedicated to our toys, particularly the lake-going variety.
I, for one, do not intend to miss out on the action.
My husband and I will be meeting up with Eric on Williams Lake in Waterford this Sunday to give paddleboarding our best shot. We've both got wakeboarding experience, but I imagine it will feel pretty different without the pull of the boat. Oh yeah, and there's that fear of falling into the pre-July Michigan lake water ...
So pray for warm weather, and keep an eye out for an update with photos, hopefully a few of them with me actually standing on this thing!